A career’s worth of output results in national television appearance
“Interaction with the general public is very rewarding because so much of my work is buried in research journals that are read only by fellow scientists and students.” – Prof Robert Logie, University of Edinburgh
“Impact is accumulative,” says Prof Robert Logie. “After many years of generating academic output, giving talks to the public, teaching and going to scientific conferences, I built up a reputation in my field and by some strange process I ended up working with the BBC.”
Prof Logie, a group leader at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE), has worked with the BBC on a cross-media science season to explore the fascinating world of memory, on radio, television and the web. This included an on-line memory test which has been completed by more than half a million people since 2006 and appeared on the BBC’s The One Show in 2009.
In this case, it was the BBC that approached Logie, but the CCACE has in the past also been active in issuing press releases about his work and the work of his colleagues. “But we were often surprised by which stories made it into the press,” says Logie. “What you think is an important research output might not necessarily make a good story.”
This has not put Logie off trying to communicate his research to a wider audience.
“Interaction with the general public is very rewarding because so much of my work is buried in research journals that are read only by fellow scientists and students,” says Logie. “Basic research is vital, because without it there will be no new knowledge to apply in the future, but being able to identify ways in which this basic research can be applied to society is equally important.”
It is this belief that has led him to develop a new taught masters course at Edinburgh called Cognition in Science and Society. The programme combines the scientific study of human cognition with the application of cognitive science to broader societal concerns. Students focus on core methodologies and theories of the cognitive sciences, but also explore the synergy between core science and its applications.
“Our aim is to get placements for our MSc students where they undertake projects in the real world, outside academic life,” says Logie. “Some will be encouraged to take on placement projects for knowledge exchange.”
When it comes to knowledge exchange for his own work, Logie says being part of a large, well-funded research centre means he benefits enormously from the infrastructure of that centre. “Our Knowledge Exchange Officer has been very useful when it comes to spotting opportunities for creating impact and also when filling out impact plans for research projects,” says Logie. “Having someone locally, who understands something of the research, understands the mission of the centre and has the contacts and knowledge to help, is invaluable to us.”
Institution:University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology
Funding council:BBSRC, MRC, EPSRC and ESRC